Milagro's Journey

Dave Eshelman

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Milagro's Journey Review

by Dave Nathan

This latest release from Dave Eshelman's Jazz Garden Big Band commemorates the 25th anniversary of this San Francisco based modern big band. Eshelman created the band to showcase his compositions and arrangements and it carries out that task eminently successfully on this the group's fifth album. The play bill also includes pieces by the likes of John Abercrombie, Keith Jarrett, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. The 18-piece aggregation is populated with top performers and jazz educators from the San Francisco area. The availability and proximity of this level of talent allows Eshelman to write creatively, challenging the members of the band and sustaining the interest of the listener. The vibrant ensemble work is heard on such cuts as "Catch Me Up" and "My Song." He also leaves room for enterprising soloing. "Delta City Blues" opens and features throughout, the searching and sometimes dissonant tenor sax of Dann Zinn. Zinn shows a tender side as his soprano sax shares the solo spotlight with Michael Bluestein's piano on "My Song." One of the album's highlights is the medley of "A Night in Tunisia" and "Caravan." The arrangement for the latter creates an almost mystical aura for the Ellington"/Juan Tizol classic and spotlights the playing of Dave Gregoric and Steve Campos on trombone and trumpet, respectively. Eshelman gives himself some individual time on trombone on a haunting "Lonely Woman." Taking advantage of high tech, this is an Enhanced CD meaning that in addition to audio, it includes JPEG pictures of session photos and lead sheets. The album's liner notes describe how to retrieve these images. Milgaro's Journey is modern big playing at its adventurous best and is recommended.

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